Far-reaching plans to bring one of the UK’s most iconic fish, the Atlantic salmon, back from the brink of extinction have been unveiled this week.
The new strategy, launched by the Environment Agency under the banner ‘Better Sea Trout and Salmon Fisheries 2008-2021’, outlines a raft of measures geared towards saving this remarkable, hard-fighting sportfish, and its cousin, the sea trout, while also increasing public participation in fishing for both species.
Although only 32,000 salmon and sea trout fishing licences are sold each year, the species are worth more to local economies than any other freshwater species, but in just a single generation anglers have witnessed the catastrophic decline of stocks. Mankind’s impact on the environment – from netting on the high seas to the degradation of river habitats by unsustainable farming practices – has been cited as the main reason for the fall.
Among the measures outlined by the Agency are:
● Achieving self-sustaining salmon and sea trout populations in more rivers
● Improving environmental conditions and the availability of quality habitat
● Promoting better land management and responsible angling practices
● Removing barriers to fish migration and reducing exploitation of at-risk stocks
● Banning the sale of rod-caught salmon and sea trout
● Protecting fisheries from high risk-introduced species, parasites and disease
● Improving salmon/sea trout fishing opportunities
The new strategy has been well received by angling’s leading organisations.
“Fish don’t need managing, people and their influence do. These latest plans represent a serious political and economic commitment to improving rivers and water quality,” said Salmon and Trout Association boss Paul Knight.
“If you get habitats and water quality right for game fish, then you get it right for other fish species and all the other wildlife that our river habitats support, such as otters, herons and kingfishers,” he added.
The plans take ongoing efforts to improve water quality, restore spawning and fry habitats and remove barriers to migration even further by linking conservation work to the EU’s Water Framework Directive, legislation that requires member states to achieve a minimum ecological status in all their lakes and rivers by 2015. And because healthy fish are the best indicator of healthy rivers, the spotlight will be falling on all fish stocks, both game and coarse, over the next few years, a development that can only be good news for anglers.
“Salmon and sea trout are very valuable as they bring social, economic and environmental benefits to communities. Their sensitivity and need for a good quality environment means we must work together with our partners to address the complex factors affecting them,” said new EA chairman Lord Chris Smith.
“The new strategy will help us focus our work over the next decade to be more efficient and effective. We need everyone with an interest in rivers to work in partnership, to help bring more salmon and sea trout into more rivers, creating further benefits for society as a whole,” he said.